By Amar Raj Naharki Tanahun, Feb. 20: The once-bustling town of Bandipur wears a deserted look these days. Although the threat posed by COVID-19 has subsided to a significant extent, at least in the district of Tanahun, travellers have still stayed away from the historic town of Bandipur, much to the dismay of tourism entrepreneurs here.
“The number of domestic and foreign tourists started going down from January and has not gone up since,” tourism businessman Narayan Khadka said. “After two hard years of COVID-19, we finally started getting visitors from Dashain and things looked encouraging till the Gregorian New Year. But then the Omicron variant of the coronavirus hit.” However, now that Omicron peak has seemingly passed, Purna Singh Thapa, chairman of Bandipur Rural Municipality, expects the number of tourists to pick up again.
Traders, though, are not so optimistic. Many working in the tourism sector have lost their jobs and have left this field for good. “Business has declined by more than 70 per cent,” said Bais Gurung, former chairman of the Bandipur Tourism Development Committee, adding that some hotels had closed forever and many others were operating barely with a negligible number of guests.
Karuna Gurung, vice-chairperson of Bandipur Rural Municipality, informed that the local government had given a 40 per cent tax rebate to the struggling tourist industry last year and discussions were ongoing to increase that to 60 per cent this year.
Known as the queen of the hills, Bandipur is famous for its traditional Newa-style houses, rich art and culture, serene environment, temples and monasteries and the beautiful Gurungche hill. Siddha Cave of Bimalnagar, which is the largest cave in Nepal and second largest in South Asia, and the prospect of canoeing in the Marsyangdi River also used to bring scores to this town.